Review: Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

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Okay. So. Let me introduce you to my favourite book of summer. This is not something I’d normally pick up (apart from the beautiful cover, that would draw me in) but this book was assigned as our monthly book-club read at work. And I am honestly so ridiculously glad it was, because this book is amazing. Incredible. Game-changing. Genre-changing (for me at least). SFF (Sci-Fi Fantasy) is not normally a genre I enjoy, but this book really changed that for me. Maybe I’ll read hundreds more SFF books now? Maybe I’ll be forever converted to SFF? Or maybe this is just a one-off, but whatever magic Harrow created, I was hooked.

The book follows January, a unique child growing up in early twentieth century America. She is being raised by a rich elderly man in his large mansion full of hidden treasures. Her absent father is off travelling the world and all January wants is to be with him, and follow in his footsteps. January finally gets her wish when she discovers a magical world behind a dilapidated doorway. This sets off a chain of events that unravel a story of magical worlds, allow January to discover who she is, and where she belongs.

The story is told in two different ways. Through January’s own first person narration, and through sections of the book that she is reading – telling the story of a courageous female explorer who makes her way through multiple doors into different universes.

This story is about growing up, discovering who you are, friendship and family. It’s a love story and an adventure novel all in one. And I can’t recommend it enough. It is wonderfully created and beautifully written. It is published on the 10th September, and if you buy any book this year … make sure it’s this one.

My rating: 9/10!!!!!

**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!

Review: Normal People – Sally Rooney

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Well, I think it’s safe to say I was VERY late to the hype with this book. Obviously being a fan of books it has been on my radar for the longest time, and on my bookshelf waiting to be read for a while too. I finally picked it up last weekend to read on the train journey back to the midlands … and here is what I thought.

This is not a bad review, because I agree with people that this is a good book. But do I think it is worth the hype, all the awards? No, I’m not sure I do. To me it was just a good book, with a few bizarre aspects, and some deep meaningful messages. When I first started the book I managed to fly through it, before I realised it I was on page 80. That to me shows just how readable this book is, you fly through it because Rooney is incredibly skilled at writing, her style seems effortless and easy. But by page 80 I was confused as to why everyone loved this book so much. It was readable, interesting, and the characters were well-created … but nothing was really happening, I wasn’t emotionally invested.

Rooney has created a book that follows the protagonists though three years of their life, she describes what happens to them, how their relationship changes and adjusts … but to me the characters always felt distant. I didn’t feel any emotional connection to their plights, and by the end I just got a bit frustrated at how they were acting.

Rooney’s book has got a lot of praise for the comments it makes on class, and I think this praise is well-deserved. The discussions of class within the University environment is very important, especially the discussion about some students having to work part time just to afford to survive living independently during their studies.

I think one of the reasons why this book is so popular is because it is realistic, it does not have unrealistic romantic goals (which I love) and it doesn’t have big romantic gestures or unbelievable disasters. It is simply about people growing up, discovering what it means to love someone and attend university. Maybe this is what people love so much about it, because people can see their own lives in the story. But I love a story that can take me away, I like unrealistic romance and dramatic catastrophe’s that lead to a huge resolution. I like things that aren’t realistic because the real world can be so daunting and horrible.

Maybe that’s why this book just did not live up to the hype for me!

My rating: 5/10!!

**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!

 

Review: The Friend Zone- Abby Jimenez

The Friend Zone is a deliciously hot, sweet debut full of banter I couldn’t get enough of. I loved all the characters, from Kristen and Josh, to the supporting cast, and even Stuntman Mike. This book is an absolute treat.”―L.J. Shen, USA Today bestselling author.

The Friend Zone by [Jimenez, Abby]

I could not agree with the above review! There is not a single part of this book I didn’t love. From the sizzling romance between Kristen and Josh to the heartbreak I felt when Kirsten talks about her infertility, this book made me feel every emotion under the sun.

The story focuses on Kirsten and Josh and how they meet over a spilled cup of coffee and a minor car accident – a wonderfully funny meet-cute! But unlike other typical rom-coms Kristen doesn’t instantly fall head over heels for Josh, she is a hard-edged permanently hangry sassy girl who doesn’t take anyone’s crap.

Of course, as with every good rom-com there is a twist, Kristen is about to move in with her long-term, beautiful and sophisticated boyfriend. But again Jimenez doesn’t fall into the trap of this being the only problem, she actually takes an incredibly bold decision in creating a very emotional storyline for Kirsten. This is Kristen’s health problems which lead her to have severe periods which last for weeks and give her crippling cramps. This means she is having an operation which will result in her not being able to have children, which is why she ‘friend zones’ Josh, a man who wants a huge family. This big secret keeps the two of them apart and provides a highly frustrating storyline because you spend the whole time rooting for the two of them to get together.

It takes them both going through a trauma (trying not to spoil here…) for Kirsten to realise that she needs Josh in her life, and that she has to be honest with him. The trauma they suffer is heart-wrenching, tear-educing and completely unexpected. The last thing I thought would happen – which is what makes this book so amazing. It will keep you on your toes and leave you surprised until the very end.

Not only does this book have a brilliant pet, a cute (and respectful) male protagonist, a supportive best-friend, but Kristen is a flawed and realistic protagonist. She isn’t perfect and ladylike, she doesn’t have a life full of unrealistic expectations like you sometimes find in chick-lit fiction, she is NORMAL. And relatable. Jimenez has created a character I want to meet, a girl I want to be best friends with.

I can’t rate this book highly enough. It’s a perfect summer read which will have you laughing and crying (a word of warning you probably shouldn’t read in public) and will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

My rating: 8/10!!

**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!

 

Review: After the End – Clare Mackintosh

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*SPOILERS*

There are no words to describe this book. I mean I’m going to try of course, but really there is no way I can explain the raw emotions that this book makes you feel. All you need to do is read it to understand. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book as it such a divergence from the previous Clare Mackintosh books I have loved and read, but this book exceeded all of my expectations and more. Mackintosh is hands down one of the most talented writers I’ve come across to make me feel SO much throughout this book, and write so beautifully on such a difficult topic.

This book follows the story of Pip, Max and their little boy Dylan. Dylan is only three years old but he has terminal caner. The first half of this book is the ‘before’, where we see Pip and Max struggling with their son’s illness but remaining optimistic. Pip has taken time off her job and spends every day in the hospital by Dylan’s side, Max isn’t so lucky as he can’t get time off from his high-flying job where he has to spend days on end travelling across to America for business meetings. You can tell from the start that Mackintosh has created believable characters who are such caring parents and that they would do anything for their son.

Mackintosh uses flashbacks and multiple narratives beautifully in this novel, making the reader aware of the history between Max and Pip, and the wonderful times they had with Dylan before he got sick. The multiple narratives allow you to see the traumatic situation from different perspectives and how parents react differently to situations. Mackintosh cleverly includes the narrative of Dylan’s doctor as well, which emphasises the hardship that doctors suffer as well, and how much care and compassion they have for their patients. These techniques are essential in connecting with the characters, and boy did I become connected to these characters.

The story centres around what happens when Pip and Max are told the best course of action for their child is to stop providing treatment and let him go. This is when things start to break down as Max and Pip can’t decide on what should happen. Pip understands that if they keep treating Dylan, and take him to America for experimental procedures, that Dylan will live his life with severe disabilities and will need round-the-clock care. Pip doesn’t want this life for her son. But Max wants to give Dylan the treatment, he doesn’t want to ‘give up’ on his child. What I found most amazing about this book was how convincingly Mackintosh writes both sides of the argument. I found it so hard throughout to make up my mind as to what I thought, and what I would do in that situation.

The second half of the book is the ‘after’ and what happens after Pip and Max have been to court who decided what would happen to Dylan. Each chapter of the second half shows you a different timeline, one where Dylan’s treatment is discontinued, one where he travels with Max to America for treatment. Each of the storylines is heart-breaking, emotional and raw. By not giving a clear answer on which of these is actually the outcome of the trial is clever on Mackintosh’s part, as it allowed her to show both outcomes, and make the reader understand that when making that decision yourself you would never be able to know what ‘could have been’ or what might have happened.

This book had me crying throughout, but nothing made me cry more than when I finished the book and read the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end. Trust me if you’re reading this book, or even just thinking about reading it, make sure you read the note from Clare at the end.

This book comes out on the 25th June and I cannot urge you more strongly to go out and BUY IT as soon as it comes out! This book is really something special.

My rating: 9.5/10 !!!
**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!

 

 

Review: Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams.

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I’ve seen reviews already detailing how incredible this is, and all I can do is add to their immense praise. Queenie is a debut novel for Carty-Williams but you would never know that this is a first book. The incredibly realised characters, the expert tackling of difficult topics would trick you into believing Carty-Williams had been writing books for decades.

When I started reading the book I was really busy. I was preparing for an interview, busy with my current job, and had lots of plans with my friends which included my brother coming to visit me. It’s safe to say I really didn’t have much time to be reading a new book, but as soon as I started Queenie I knew I would find any spare second I had in my day to read it. It is addictive.

Queenie is a twenty-something Jamaican woman living in London and is left struggling to cope after her relationship breaks down and she is forced to move out of the flat she shared with her boyfriend. Carty-Williams’ ability to create a protagonist who is believable and relatable is astounding. From the beginning of the book I was able to relate to Queenie’s reaction to her breakup and her slowly-growing feelings that she is failing in her career, failing everyone around her.

This book tackles how difficult it is to be a young woman in the dating and working world (something which I could relate to) but also shows how this is even more difficult for women of colour. Race is of paramount importance in this book, not only because Queenie herself experiences racism from men she dates, but also because it is rare to have such a huge commercial book written, and starring, a black woman. This book taught me a lot about the experiences of black women in England. This book is educational and powerful as much as it is funny and brilliant.

The real gem of this book for me was the relationship Queenie has with her ‘corgis’ (her best friends). Carty-Williams writes realistic friendships, where women support each other and defend each other, but also tell the truth and make sure their friends know when they’re doing destructive things. There are fights and make-ups just like in real life, and ultimately this book is a love story about Queenie learning to love herself, with the help of her friends who surround her with love and support.

Finally, I couldn’t review this book without mentioning the prevailing themes of mental health. It was so refreshing to read a book where the protagonist (reluctantly) goes to therapy against the wishes of her family (interesting cultural influences in play here). This storyline is highly emotional, reading as the protagonist learns how to handle her mental health problems and develop healthier habits was heart-warming and important. It is so important that storylines like this are becoming more popular and mainstream as they offer support and reassurance to people who need it, and they prove that nobody’s alone.

I have so much love and respect for this book. And I think everyone should add this to their TBR.

My rating: 8/10 !!!!!!

**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!

 

Review: In at the Deep End – Kate Davies


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*SPOILERS*

Thank you, thank you, thank you Kate Davies for this book.

This book is everything I have ever wanted to read. The story is about Julia, a twenty-six year old who finds herself with a failing love life and a job she didn’t expect to be in. As the story develops so does Julia’s journey into the discovery that the reason she has been so unlucky in love is because she is a lesbian.

This is when the book really hooked me. A lesbian protagonist who is happy about her discovery and wants to show off her newfound pride? In a contemporary commercial fiction book? It was honestly a dream come true. This is the kind of protagonist I have been searching for my whole life.

As the story continues Davies writes a hilarious tale about Julia discovering the joys of sex with women, and the bizarre thing she encounters. This book is not for the fainthearted, there is some incredibly graphic sex scenes which are written not only interestingly, but also realistically. Some of the scenes had me laughing out loud (on a train – making me look like a lunatic) because Davies writes with a blunt and honest humour.

This refreshing book is as heart-warming as it is hilarious. There are loving and caring friendships and relationships portrayed brilliantly, through ups and downs Julia has a supportive group of friends who always protect her. From her best friend and roommate to her newfound lesbian friends from her dancing group, this book shows the importance of friendships. When Julia’s relationship with Sam (her emotionally abusive first lesbian girlfriend) breaks down, she has her friends surrounding her to support her, even though she doesn’t see the problems straight away. Davies’ tackles very difficult topics, from coming out to family and friends, relationship breakdowns to controlling relationships and BDSM and she does so with clever wit, charm, and respect.

This book is honest, funny, relatable and eye-opening. I would recommend it to absolutely everyone no matter what your age or sexuality. Although if you are a woman in your 20s who is attracted to other women, I would go as far as to say this is A MUST READ. It should be mandatory queer reading.

My rating: 10/10 !!!!!!

**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!

 

Review: If only I could tell you – Hannah Beckermann

***SPOILERS***

 

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This book is a story about an estranged family and how destructive secrets can be, and it is a book that completely broke my heart. The novel focuses on a female-dominated family, who are all dynamic and fascinating characters, with flaws that make them wonderfully human.

The story follows these five women as they struggle with Audrey’s (mother and grandmother) battle with cancer and a family estrangement that has torn their family apart for years. The illness leads Audrey to pursue her dreams of singing on stage, visiting New York, and reuniting her family. Her pursuits are empowering, heart-warming and the way Beckermann tells the story is so engrossing I’m still now struggling to comprehend that Audrey is not a real person.

Beckermann’s story telling is so powerful that I constantly found myself getting emotional because I couldn’t imagine ever being estranged from my sister for such a long period of time. This makes the book frustrating because you just want the sisters to reconcile and for the truth to come out. The truth, which as a reader you are unaware of for most of the book – which makes it a fascinating read. The secrets are revealed slowly with clues dropped throughout, as you would find them out if you were a member of the family.

I think my favourite part of this story is the relationship between Mia and Phoebe. Their friendship is formed in secrecy as their mothers keep them apart their entire lives. This rebellious friendship proves that despite family feuds, future generations can overcome these, and that family ties can remain no matter how difficult the circumstances.

This book broke my heart, made me laugh, made my mouth fall open in shock, and made me cry. I connected with the characters, I have never suffered losses like Audrey, Lily and Jess do, but I felt like I understood what they were going through – because Beckermann describes their experiences so well. It is truly an incredible book and I am so so happy I picked it up!

“There were as many different beginnings to a life as someone was brave and kind enough to allow themselves.”

My rating: 8/10

**always out of 10 because 5 is too restricting!